Thursday, March 08, 2007

Bridges to Terabithia

Yes, I have been to "Terabithia" many a time. In fact, you might say, I have lived there most of my childhood and adult careers.

Back in "the day" when us kids were told to "go out and play" after school...pre-television, video game days, we had to be pretty inventive with our neighborhood friends and believe me, we were. We created all kinds of "imaginary realms" for our "escapes". The books we read (had to read) helped that too.

I was greatly into "Robin Hood" and "King Arthur's Round Table". We had a terraced backyard and the upper terrace was our "Terabithian Realm". We had a gigantic avocado tree that "served" as many a castle and "armour tree" where we hung all our "silent weapons" we had "hand crafted". We took various roles and had running "battles" from our "underground fort" in the unoccupied "back lot". This was also where I planted my first garden of fast-growing vegetables and buried my first pet and a opossum playing "possum". We made mudball hand grenades filled with rocks for those pesky (imaginary and real) adversaries (various neighbor kids we fell in and out with) We made shields and helmets out of anything we could find in the trash behind the garage.

Soon bikes and roller coasters were involved. We lived near the corner of a hill that was perfect for long, thrilling rides One coaster just had to have "jets" nailed to its underside and I remember saving up my allowance for those special jets you could only by in the local hardware store (no more than 4" long) What a disappointment when they had no measureable effect on our downhill coast.

Soon we had to fit in our terabithian play after dinner in the summer until dark. We, of course, were allowed to go barefoot at that time of the year and it was so hard to put on those new shoes for school in the fall. Neighborhood jobs, not just chores at home, took more and more time away from those halcyon days. At one time I had seven lawns around the neighborhood to mow weekly. I pushed my own (dad's) mower, catcher, sack, hand trimmer and broom to each neighbor's lawn and was so happy to get up to $1.75 (for the whole lawn) once a week. Here I also created "worlds of creative mowing patterns and designs"...anything to make it go easier and quicker, like fun.

We lived accross the street from the backside of Forest Lawn Cemetery. Up and across the street there was a another vacant lot behind some homes where nobody was ever home. There was a hole in the fence behind the "Court of David" (yes, a repllica of the real one in Florence, Italy) We got quite a thrill sneaking into this area of Forest Lawn and risking being caught and taken to our parents or the police. We continued our "Terabithian Ways" here too. Little did I know then that I would be working at this cemetery as a college kid later as a "pall bearer for hire".

You can see why I gravitated toward the "creative subjects" in school. I soon was involved in music and drama productions from elementary school, Junior High and High School. More chances for me to "escape to Terabithia" in an acceptable way. "King of the May Day" in Kindergarten set me off. "Turkey-lurkey" in our second grades recorded production of "Chicken Little". (very appropriate, don't you think, for my later career choices) Mystery Theater co-lead in Junior High...some "murder in the bogs of Scotland" I think. I had to wear a tweed jacket I remember. I concentrated more on music in High School and did a couple musicals, one I remember was "Lost Horizons" ... we chimed in at the end with the chorus, "Beyond the Blue Horizons Lies a rising sun!"
Here I started to work on my "terabithia of writing" with teachers who enjoyed my "flights of fantasy" in their assignments. In college I again concentrated on music, vocal music, because it had that same ability to "send me to terabithia".

So you see it was a very natural thing for me to love teaching elementary school and do it through my "terabithian eyes". I had one rule: "If I got bored, I knew the kids were." So I kept it open for lots of drama, creative problem solving, i.e. "Burgan Bucks", Disneyland Trips, semi-annual class play productions, and lots of reading aloud to the class after lunch break. I tried to choose books that kept "terabithia alive" in them and me. i.e. "Charlie and Chocolate Factory" was big at the time, "Hobbit", "Narnia", and towards' the end "Harry Potter's series. I think we got to book three.

On one of our choir tours to Europe before I retired, I brought this special book above to preview(read) so I'd be prepared to read it to the class. I remember that Kirk Schaumann, my singing tenor buddy in the choir, asked to read (reread) the book on the bus. He sat behind my wife and I. It was then I realized that I'd have trouble reading has a tragic death in it and I usually had trouble reading these passages aloud. Yes, I'm from the old school that says "men" should not cry in front of others, especially their students. (I had the class TV on when the Challenger went down and the first teacher in space was killed...that was a tear-jerker) There were other incidents that I probably choose to not remember. So, I never read "Bridge..." to my classes. It was just too...true in so many ways for me. i.e. The little sister who just had to "tag along". The "one main best friend" of the opposite sex in the neighborhood. The getting my pants pulled down in a "tackle football" backyard game with the girls watching from "the tree" and being so "em-bare-assed" that I wouldn't come out of the house for a month...the bullies in school and to and from school...being beat up and locked in the gas station restroom. The guilt trips so embedded in me by my church and parents when "things" went "wrong"..."God, what have I done to deserve this?" Certain that I was "going to hell" or other friends would. (yes, this is in the book too)

We all have these memories I assume. It would be a terrible shame if the kids now-a-days don't have those same opportunities for "bridging to terabithia". I just can't think that video games, nintendo DS's etc. can provide the same total involvement. Do our kids even have any "non-structured", unplanned out, unscheduled time anymore? Bob!


At 9:30 AM, Blogger BOB! Your Life Preserver said...

Risk taking has to be factored in with childhood "bridging". I wasn't really allowed to take too many. My sons weren't either, thanks to my wife mainly. They did it anyway. Now I hear of explorations of the local irrigation tunnels and sewers for example. We were blissfully ignorant of much of their risk-taking. Fortunately we got them all to age 21 without too many trips to the hospital, emergency rooms or police stations. Bob!


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